Sept. 3, 2012
Watch Wilkins' Press Conference
MADISON, Wis. - University of Wisconsin women's soccer head coach Paula Wilkins spoke at Monday's weekly news conference, highlighting the team's recent West Coast swing, as well as the individual performances of some of the players.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Wilkins' remarks can be found below.
Paula Wilkins: Excited to be here. It's pretty amazing that we're over a quarter of our season gone already before the school season even starts. But I have to tell a little bit about our trip to California.
Obviously as a coach it's never good to get a loss, but I think our loss to UCLA is really going to benefit us in the future here preparing for our future games in terms of knowing where we want to go now and what things we need to correct.
I was happy with our team after having that hard emotional loss to UCLA at UCLA, bouncing back to beat Loyola Marymount.
I think it's always hard physically and with the distractions in California with teams to focus, but this team has really kind of been cohesive in what they're trying to do and accomplish and they're making steps every game that they play in. Very excited. Have a lot of young players who are impacting but having great leadership, too, which is a great combination, I think, for any coach and it makes it a lot easier for me.
QUESTION #1: I know the result against UCLA wasn't what you wanted. But it's early in the season, too. They're second or first in the country. That's got to be a confidence builder, I would assume, as you continue on this season?
Wilkins: Yeah, I thought it was really important for us. The second goal that UCLA scored was, there was 30 seconds left to go in the game, and we had a corner kick, and we thought you have to go for it.
And we put our goal keeper in the box. And what ended up happening, she (Kinley McNicoll) ended up hitting it off one of the UCLA players and it bounced to a forward who was about 10 yards ahead of everybody. She ran 100 yards and scored the goal. After the game the team was huddled up, and I wasn't around them, and they were talking and I said: Can you tell me what you guys said?
Monica Lam-Feist said: If there's any way I'm going to lose, it's going to be that way, by throwing it all out there. I thought this team is different than any team I've had in the past years. I think they're going to throw it all out for every single game. And I think the leadership has been fantastic because even after seeing something like that in the game is great.
And after watching the film, there are things we can correct. I think UCLA is going to get better and better and I definitely think they're one of the top five teams in the country.
So to go to that environment and do that is exciting, and the kids, you can tell the kids feel it a little bit.
QUESTION #2: Statistically, your leading scorers are 7, 7, 7, 6, 5. You have three two-goal scorers. Is that a reflection of the depth and is that a good look at the depth sheet?
Wilkins: I'm excited about it. I think we've scored more goals this year than we have all last year. As a coach, you sleep a little bit better, but you're always worrying about something. But I think it's a commitment the team has to each other in terms of working off the ball, getting people forward. Being unselfish with their runs.
You can almost see like Paige Adams scored a goal yesterday and she got through and she's trying to find Cara Walls the ball. It's not being selfish. They really kind of complement each other. McKenna Meuer and Kinley McNicoll, two freshmen in the midfield, who are soldiers, I believe, are scoring goals also.
But mostly because of their work rate and their willingness to put the work in to be successful. And the upper classmen feed off it and the freshmen kind of feed off the upper classmen. It's a great dynamic.
QUESTION #3: Pete Waite was talking about his team maybe coming in with maybe a chip on their shoulder from last year where they didn't have the success they were used to having. Do you feel the momentum building with your kids with your program after the success you've had over the last couple of years, it's not just, hey, we're happy to win, we kind of expect it and to be an elite program?
Wilkins: Yeah, and it rests a lot right on the shoulders of the seniors. Last year not making the NCAAs, a lot of the juniors came in and said we want to make a difference, a change. They really put the work in to build a relationship with the younger players. And you can kind of see how they all believe in each other. And they want to leave something great for this program. And they're really doing a great job. They're spending extra time watching film and kind of bringing players along.
And when coaches talk about leadership, they talk about how important it is. And I really see the impact that they're having, and they really want to leave something, the program in a better spot than when they got it.
So even some success they've had early, I think -- I don't know if I can say they stunned themselves, but they realize what their work is paying off for now. So it's great to see as a coach that's really what you want to see.
QUESTION #4: You said you think UCLA is a top five team in the country. Where do you think your team could be?
Wilkins: I think consistency is going to be a part. We started in the spring with a concept of how we wanted to play, and they're buying into it. And they're really doing it. We knew there were going to be mistakes during the season. But we asked them to keep trying. And I think that consistency is coming through now.
But there's still little bits and parts. We needed to switch the point of attack more against UCLA. Did it better against Loyola-Marymount. But we're going to ask them to be more consistent in terms of that.
So for me, I think the sky's the limit, because they're in that game against UCLA. I believe after watching the video, UCLA had a lot of chances. But other than their first goal, we probably had the two best other chances in the game. And not that they were plenty of them, but Paige Adams misses a great opportunity which might have changed the outcome of the game.
And so the players look at that and get very excited. So it's what's great about soccer, it's any given day. And their commitment, our team's commitment to defending has really made them a dangerous team. So we'll take it day-by-day right now.
QUESTION #5: Different topic. I know you're several years removed from being at Penn State. But what's it been like for you as someone who worked there for quite a while to kind of observe what's going on there? Are you still affected by that? Is it something that you have a lot of emotions invested in?
Wilkins: The only emotions I have really invested is that I know the people still there. I knew a lot of people involved, Tim Curley and Graham Spanier, I knew them on a daily basis. And watching some of the people Russ Rose there with volleyball, and all that, just hearing all that, it's not an easy subject or a great subject and one of the things that was great about Penn State for me was that it was a close-knit family. And I think that's what sort of made it what happened.
And my time there was great. Those people treated me great. Knew nothing about what was going on. Kind of on our own little bubble in the soccer world.
But just -- it's sad for everyone involved. And I think that's the biggest thing to come away from, is that unfortunately some of the people that are still there who had nothing, weren't involved in those situations are being affected by it. And that's hard because I had some very good relationships there.
QUESTION #6: One more soccer question. Michele Dalton was a very good goal keeper for you. Only given up two goals so far this season. Looks like you found some people to take her spot?
Wilkins: What people don't see behind the scenes is that they don't see Lauren Gunderson every day in practice competing with Michele and pushing her.
So I think that dynamic really made each other better. But -- and it was a hard choice for us in terms of who to play, Lauren or Michele. So I'm excited that Lauren has gotten her opportunity to show what she can do.
Great personality. Players on the team really kind of adore her and her funniness and what she brings. And I think it's been a great leadership and that rallies around her. She does it differently than Michelle does.
And I think that's a good thing. I think it's something that the team needs, and for her we're just going to ask her to be consistent and how we're playing now we ask her to do a little bit more stuff with her feet. So I'm excited to see it. And the only thing I've always told Lauren I want her to go for it and she really has the first couple of games here, and the goal against UCLA she had that she gave up, she couldn't have done anything about. So she's been doing everything she can.
And the UCLA game she's the person who had the last shot, which ended up being rebounded and going the other direction. But again she's going for it and I want her senior year to be fantastic.